More than 800 Dealers, dealership staff and representatives from associated industries spent a valuable two days at the 2017 AADA National Dealer Convention at the International Convention Centre Sydney, at Darling Harbour.

It was the best attendance in terms of Dealer Principals that we have ever had.

AADA was also thrilled at the high calibre of government interaction, with Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, and former Treasurer, Peter Costello, addressing the Convention.

2018 Convention: ‘Prosperity in the Age of Automotive Disruption’

Next year’s AADA National Dealer Convention will be held from 4-6 September at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, with the theme ‘Developing Prosperity in the Age of Automotive Disruption’.

Electric vehicles will be the first major disruption, with several countries, including Germany, France and the UK, announcing they will phase out internal combustion engine vehicles in the next decade or two.

Ride-sharing and car-sharing companies are setting their sights on the traditional ownership model, while autonomous developers aim to remove the driver altogether.

Change is a’comin’

In what was one of the best AADA Conventions yet, 2017 delegates heard from keynote speaker, former Treasurer, Peter Costello, that change was unstoppable and it was therefore essential to be prepared.

Guest speaker, technologist and futurist, Steve Sammartino, said that change would come faster than everyone expected and predicted the shift from petrol to electric cars would be as swift and as universal as the change to smartphones. Within 10 years you won’t be able to buy a petrol car, he foretold.

“When new technology arrives, customers can have their problems solved in different ways. That’s what technology does,” Mr Sammartino said.

“The business that we are in is the problems that we solve, not the products that we sell. The products that solve people’s problems change; we have to change as well.”

Advancing innovation, technology and engagement

The 2017 Convention theme was conceived to address the challenges facing our industry as we move into a future of electric and autonomous cars, dealing with a new generation of customers and employees.

Facebook and Google led vital sessions, educating delegates on the strategies crucial for success in the digital age.

Facebook’s Head of Automotive, Ted Bergeron, demonstrated how to use Facebook to generate leads; how to use targeted advertising to cut advertising spend; how to use content – and what that content should be. He shared with delegates how to create the kind of ‘social experience’ that will attract attention in the crowded digital space.

The Google Digital Event consisted of four sessions covering how to create an online presence that captures attention, showcasing best practice solutions from around the world both within and outside the automotive industry, including advanced strategies such as video content and re-marketing.

Former Telstra CEO and current CSIRO Chairman, David Thodey, spoke to one of the convention themes, ‘Innovation’. He said businesses must create cultures that foster innovation, with the customer at the centre of decision-making.

“Being a customer-centric organisation is far deeper than just delivering great service,” Mr Thodey said.

“The most important thing you can do is to have such a customer-centricity that you never stand still. Because if you’re really listening to the customer, your business cannot stand still, because customers need change and they’re looking for more. Don’t get fooled into thinking customer-centricity is just about better service; it’s very deeply about what your company or your group stands for.”

Mr Thodey said Dealers should regard themselves not as being in the business of selling cars, but in helping people to get where they needed to go.


“Innovation’s become a very popular term,” Mr Thodey said.

“To me, innovation’s very simple: it’s the constant desire to improve, to never accept the status quo, to always do something better. Innovation can be the way I prepare a presentation, it can be the way I answer the phone, prepare an email, or it can be a really big innovation: a new design of a car or something like that.

“You’ve got to actually invest time in it in your organisation. You’ve got to say, ‘Hey, I want new ideas. I want new things to come out. I want you, the people of our organisation, to be forward-thinking and action-thinking about what you do’.”

Closely related to innovation was the concept of reinvention.

“I think companies move in five-year cycles, and you’ve got to keep reinventing yourself. What you did last year is not good enough for next year. And it’s the same in your careers; you’ve got to keep reinventing yourself.”

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, whose organisation has spent the past 12 months investigating the new car retailing industry, reassured Dealers that the ACCC did not hate them and was not out to get them.

In fact, Mr Sims called on manufacturers to stop putting the squeeze on Dealers through Dealer Agreements, policies and procedures, and step up to meet their consumer guarantee obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.

He told delegates there was an imbalance in the manufacturer-Dealer relationship. This imposes on Dealers significantly, which ultimately affect consumers.

However, Mr Sims also reiterated the ACCC’s determination that service and repair information should be shared with independent outfits in order to provide the best result (lower prices, greater choice) for consumers.

Former Federal Minister for Small Business and current Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia, Bruce Billson, told the Chairman’s Dinner that Dealers must ‘tell their stories’, to remind politicians and the general public that they are significant contributors to both the economy and the community.

Dealers who actively engage with both technological progress and the consumer desires that drive it are the ones who will profit. They must engage on all sides: with manufacturers experimenting with new technology; with customers to ensure they help them get what they want, and with governments, so they are abreast of planning and legislative developments likely to impact their business models.

Those who arm themselves with the knowledge and aptitude to grow with this new world should continue to thrive. Our world will continue to change as the disruptors turn their eyes on our industry, and we will redouble our efforts to ensure the 2018 Convention comprehensively addresses the issue.

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